Monday, September 26, 2011

The Last 5 Pencils and Crayons

Some favorite things
I posted the the last five Pencils and Crayons this morning. Creating an image-a-day began as a lark with last October's pumpkins, and quickly became a commitment, a discipline, and a joy.

Some of the months' images were obvious (leaves/November; Hanukah candles & snowflakes/December; basketballs/March; raindrops/April; corn/July; heirloom tomatoes/August), and other months were a creative leap (lost left-handed gloves/January; missing socks/February).

THE LLLAMAS  To introduce the LLLama Families in May, I needed to sit down and write their stories. This was fair. For more than two years the 30+ LLLamas had been nagging me to take them off the shelf and get them out into the world. After being posted to Facebook, they embarked on a world tour, leaving behind SpokesLLLama Rainbow. They will return to the small friends' site in January 2012.

Glenda Diva Gecko
Undersea LLLama
Celebration Rhea
SMALL FRIENDS  When it was clear that the LLLamas would have their day in the sun, the other small friends who had been lurking on the nanoscapes website and in my studio finally put down their collective feet, and demanded both a month (June) and a website of their own. The nanoscapes and small friends had an amicable divorce in early June, and the small friends have their own website, blog, and The Small Friends Research Institute.

It's been quite a year, or with a tip of the hat to one of my favorite songs, The Grateful Dead's "Truckin,"  --- What a long, strange, and extraordinarily fun trip it's been. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Balloon Sampler 2011: miracles of Photoshop

Balloon Sampler 2011
5x7" Balloon Post Card Painting
I have been using Photoshop primarily for storage and organization for my watercolors for the past few years, but this afternoon, I stumbled into the 21st century and began to explore its astonishing capabilities.

A quilt with sampler blocks
As someone who spent half a lifetime looking at samplers in which quilters and needleworkers practiced stitches and alphabets, and created ever-more complex quilt patterns, I felt a kinship with their energy and gratitude for this amazing tool.

Beginning with a 300 dpi scan of a 5x7" watercolor on 140# paper, I copied the image over and over again, experimenting with posterizing, gradients, channels, filters, curves and more. I created a 22x22 blank square and then dropped in each of the copies, re-arranging, adding, and deleting. When I ended up with a 3x4 row image, I deleted the excess blank canvas, added a signature, and I was finished.

Making a quilt or a piece of needlepoint can take weeks or months. Beginning with a finished painting, which, admittedly took about six hours to paint, the Photoshop exercise took about an hour.

This was way too much fun, and I look forward to learning a lot more about Photoshop, and multiplying and manipulating the color and energy inherent in original nanoscapes.

Balloon Sampler 2011 is available in two limited editions of five each, signed and numbered through the nanoscapes website:

  • 20x20 inches, matted:          $75.00 
  • 10x10 inches, matted           $50.00

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stained Glass Cat: a creative conundrum

Stained Glass Cat
Stained Glass Cat will be a new small friend, but her roots are with the nanoscapes' Fractured Glass family. She has brought me to the brink with a creative conundrum: is she finished?

Because the Fractured Glass technique is in my comfort zone, I began work on her when I needed a break between identifying and painting new small friends and tackling new nanoscapes projects.

Now that all of her "glass bits" are finished and "grouted" with watercolor, she might be finished. But perhaps not. I might paint a "fractured glass" frame or add a horizontal line to anchor her. Or maybe not.

This eerie feeling -- hesitating before making a paint stroke -- may be as close as I ever get to what I imagine sculptors and gem cutters feel before making a critical cut. Will it work? Will it do what I want it to do? Will it do something better? Will it cause the entire enterprise to fall flat on its face?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

small friends, nanoscapes and 9/11

I made my very first batch of jam right after the Towers went down in 2001. I began with Laurie Colwin's Plum Jam, filling jar after jar, making batch after batch. I kept this up for about three years with jams, pickles, Onion Relish, and Barbecue Sauce. During that time, I always had 6 cases of jars in my car -- in case of any emergency that couldn't be handled by the dozen cases that I stored in my house.

Time passes and people change.On this 10th anniversary, I turned off the radio and tv, and got on with what what I do now, which is to paint with watercolors. I paint geometric abstractions called nanoscapes and whimsical creatures called small friends. Instead of fretting about an anniversary attack that had been strongly suggested in the media, I made two new paintings, and nearly completed the Stained Glass Cat.

Both Mama & Baby Elephant and the Two Squirrels are painted on 140# Arches Hot Press Paper. They are experiments and not for sale.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stained Glass Cat: progress report

First color
September 6

Friends and fans of nanoscapes may remember the Fractured Glass paintings that I made in 2010, and that there was a magical moment in each painting when the loops and whirls began to come together inside the image. It has happened again with the Stained Glass Cat.

Throughout this work, I have used a new brush: a #1 Rafael 8408 Martre Kolinsky Sable France which I purchased from Wet Paint in St. Paul, MN. It holds a lot of paint and gives me a lot of control, too. 

Stained Glass Cat is 15x22 and painted on 300# Fabriano Extra White paper. When complete, the Stained Glass Cat will join her family in the small friends website.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Vulcan's Victory: An inspiration from a great collaboration

Clement Haupers (1900-1982)
Vulcan’s Victory, 1960’s,
Collection of Minnesota Museum of American Art
Gift of Mrs. Benjamin Grey, 1976.
By the end of the 2011 Minnesota State Fair, I will have served as a State Fair Foundation Volunteer for 6 of the Fair's 12 days. I was lucky to have been assigned to the J.V. Bailey House and to the tiny exhibit, Fairs, Circuses, and All Things Fun, which is a collaboration between the Foundation and the Minnesota Museum of American Art. As the MMAA is currently looking for a home and its collections are in storage, it is a special treat to be able to see these paintings and sculptures.

My favorite piece, Vulcan’s Victory by Minnesota artist Clement Haupers, is an inspiration on many levels. It celebrates one of my favorite events, the St. Paul Winter Carnival (ice palace, bouncing girls, and fireworks), and it has a secret linked to Minnesota’s great agricultural tradition imbedded in its frame. Really? When Haupers made the frame, he used egg flats to echo the shapes and bursts of the fireworks. 
Egg Flat Frame

Many visitors have been intrigued by this painting, and there was much speculation about how Haupers achieved the look of stucco on this three-dimensional frame. Was it plaster? Plaster-of-Paris? Very thick paint? Stucco?

Having gone directly to a grocery store after seeing this frame, I learned that egg flats are not the egg cartons in grocery stores; they are made to hold 30 eggs. Nonetheless, I am inspired once again to create my own frames, and to look for unusual materials to do that. What inspires you?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Stained Glass Cat: in progress

Stained Glass Cat Day 2
Yes. I love stained glass. Yes. I think that any work with glass is magic. No, I will never work with glass because it requires safety equipment for cutting or being a heat-resistant human who can work with the temperatures required by melting and fusing.

But wait! I can paint. Adding to the nanoscapes' Fractured Glass and The Glazes, this small friend Stained Glass Cat is based on a needlepoint pattern that I have carted around for 30 years. When complete, it will be for sale through the small friends website.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Pencils & Crayons of September: image a day

Pencils & Crayons of September

An image a day. In 2010, as an artist at the Hopkins (MN) Farmers Market, I was inspired by the farmer vendors to paint pumpkin post cards. After posting a pumpkin-a-day on my Facebook page in October, I could not stop.

By February 2011, the Post Card Project had moved from postcards to large sheets of Arches 140# paper. While most are seasonal, I also introduced the LLLama Families and the small friends, a group of whimsical creatures. The geometric abstractions called nanoscapes and the small friends are now in separate websites.  

Month-by-month: January (lost left-handed gloves), February (missing socks), March (basketballs and a Shamrock), April (raindrops), May (introducing the LLLama Families), June (introducing the small friends), July (corn), August (heirloom tomatoes), September (pencils & crayons), October (pumpkins), November (leaves), and December (Hanukah candles & snowflakes.)

Will I continue with an image a day? Yes, but I will begin in an organized way on January 1, 2012. I have lots of projects to complete between now and then: a calendar, the small friends alphabet, the Lives of the LLLamas, and more! I am also committed to the work of the Small Friends Research Institute, which is dedicated to the discovery and documentation of new whimsical creatures.